The 1st Statistical Account
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Parish of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden
(Counties of Cromarty and Ross,* Synod of Ross, Presbytery of Chanonry) * A small part only of this parish is in the county of Ross
Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty
By the * A small part only of this parish is in the county of Ross
Stipend, Schools, Poor, &c. –
Mrs. Urquhart of Braelangwell and Newhall is patroness of this united parish. The kirk is neat and commodious. The manse, lately repaired, is very small, and very improperly situated on swampy ground, below a brae. The stipend amounts to 19L. 8s. 10d. Sterling in money, with 4 chalders of barley, and 4 chalders of oat meal. The glebe consisted, at the incurnbent’s admission, of 19 acres of poor moorish soil arable, and about 12 acres of barren stony moor; he has since added 6 acres to the arable ground. As the bulk of the inhabitants reside towards the extremities of the parish, the parochial school is taught in the E. end by a deserving young man, who has only 8L. 6s. 8d. of stated salary; and a school for spinning, knitting stockings, and reading English, is established by the Honourable Society, in the wester end, with a salary of 7L. It is to be hoped, that the period will soon arrive, when the landed interest of Scotland will feel themselves constrained, by the love of justice and their country, to grant something like decent salaries to that most useful class of men, the parochial teachers of youth, who, after a liberal and expensive education, devote their time and talents to the duties of an office which is not only most laborious and fatiguing in itself, but of the utmost importance to the best interests of society. There never was an established fund for the poor of this parish:; and though the number of those who received of the weekly collections amounted, till of late, to from 60 to 70, the annual collections have seldom exceeded 8L., after paying the session-clerk’s and kirk officer’s fees .*
* Two years ago, the session entered into a resolution of giving no part of the collections, except to such as should consign whatever they might be.
Miscellaneous Observations –
In searching for lime-stone, in 1786, several specks of rich lead ore were found in a free-stone rock, to the S. of the mill of St. Martin’s, by the late Mr. Gordon of Newhall, whose classical knowledge, philanthropy, and engaging manners endeared him to all who knew him. Appearances were so favourable that workmen had proceeded a good way in cutting through the rock, under ground, in 2 different directions, in hopes of meeting a vein of ore, when his sudden and much lamented death, in January 1778, put an end to the attempt. Some spar, lime-stone, and stone-marl were found in digging through the above rock, in which a number of specks of ore were found embedded. Rich shell-marl was discovered, a few years ago, in a small loch near the mansion-house of Braelangwell, which the proprietor has used, as a manure to his fields, with great success.
Salmon, trout, skate, herrings, whitings, small cod, flounders of various kinds, cuttle-fish, needle-fish, cuddies, and a variety of smaller fry, are caught in the frith opposite to this parish by hooks and nets, and also by yares (belonging to Newhall and Poynterfield), in which cart loads of herrings and other kinds of fish are sometimes found enclosed, after the tide leaves them.
About 10 tons of kelp are made, every third year, on the shores of New-worth at their death (after paying funeral charges) to the poor of the parish, if they did not leave an indigent parent or child. In consequence of this regulation, the number of poor receiving aid from the session is now reduced to 35. Besides the weekly collection, the greatest part of which is given by the residing heritors, the incumbent has been at pains, for several years past, to make up a small permanent accumulating fund, the interest of which, he hopes, will, in a few years, afford considerable relief to the greatest objects.It has already increased to 30L. Sterling.
The late Sir George Munro was the first, in this part of the country, who began improvements in agriculture on a large scale by enclosing, planting, draining, liming, fallowing, and sowing green crops on his mains of Poyntsfield, which now add greatly to the beauty and value of that part of the estate; and very great improvements have been carried on in all these respects, on the mainses of Braelangwell and Newhall, and these 3 contiguous feats, in full view of the noble bay and harbour of Cromarty, form as beautiful a landscape as can be imagined. The county-roads and bridges in this parish have been much improved of late, and are in general very good.
There is a greater number of ancient encampments in this than in any other parish in the N. From tradition, and the general’s tent being circular, they are supposed to have been formed by the Danes when they invaded Scotland. It is favourable to this hypothesis that, from the eminence on which these entrenchments are most numerous, there is an extensive prospect in all directions, to prevent their being surprised in their camp; and as they are seldom found above a mile from the shore, if they should have been surprised and defeated by the natives, they could easily have retired on board their ships, and landed in some other part of the country, where the inhabitants were not in force to oppose them. There are likewise a great many tumuli or cairns; the larger are formed of stones of various dimensions, and the lesser of earth and stones thrown promiscuously together. In removing the stones of some of these cairns, stone-coffins were found, formed by 4 large and 2 small slabs of unhewn free-stone, containing ashes, and blades of offensive weapons, almost totally consumed by rust.*
* Considering the spirited exertions made by the gentlemen of this and the neighbouring counties in making good roads and bridges, it is surprising that little or no attention has been paid to improving the passage boats at the numerous ferries in and surrounding this district of country. It is to be hoped, that this truly important object will no longer escape their particular notice, and that ferry-boats of an improved construction as well as piers for receiving and landing passengers, cattle and carriages, will be as seriously attended to, as roads and bridges, especially at the ferries of Invergordon and Fort-George.
Hints respecting Improvements –
It is almost unnecessary to observe that the establishing woollen, lint, and cotton manufactures in this country, would be of the greatest advantage to the inhabitants. Among many others on the Frith of Cromarty, there is an excellent station for a lint or hemp manufacture in this parish, at the store-house of Newhall, where there is a fine natural harbour, in which ships of a considerable burden could lie unmolested by any wind, excepting from the N. and N. W. As the soil of this parish is well adapted to raising lint and hemp, the farmers would no doubt take the advantage of this favourable circumstance, if proper lint-mills were erected, and premiums given to allure them to the attempt. Surely the trustees for the improvement of manufactures, &c. cannot suppose, that inducements of that nature are now so necessary in southern counties, where manufactures have been long established, and where the method and advantage of raising lint and hemp are well understood, as in these northern districts, where they are hardly known, and where the people are in that low state of poverty and depression, which has ever been found to check and smother a spirit of industry and improvement.
* The only building in this parish that has the appearance of great antiquity, is the castle of Craighouse, on the shore of Cullicudden, about a mile and a half westward of the old kirk. It is 5 storeys high, built with run lime on a rock perpendicular towards the sea, which washes it at flood-tide, and, being surrounded on the land side by a ditch and high wall, it evidently appears to have been a place of considerable strength. All the apartments of the one half of it, which is most entire, are formed by stone arches, but the floors of the other half, which is evidently more modern, have been laid on wooden joists, part of which are still to be seen on the walls. About 200 years ago, the castle, with the lands adjoining, belonged to the Williamsons of Craighouse, the representative of which family is a Count Williamson in Germany. The castle and lands of Craighouse, afterward became the property and occasional residencc of the Bishops of Ross and are now a part of the estate of Newhall.
Besides these, converting all, or, at least, one half of the victual-rents into money, at a moderate rate, giving long leases, with melioration for enclosing the farms, and abolishing thirlage, would have a powerful tendency to rouse a spirit of improvement among the farmers, and render the situation of the people in general much more easy and comfortable than it is at present. Giving premiums to farmers for fallowing and liming their ground, sowing turnips and grass-seeds in their fields would, no doubt, excite a spirit of emulation and industry among them. And as these are the great and truly patriotic objects which the lately formed Ross-shire farming-society has in view, it is not doubted but every gentleman of property in the counties of Ross and Cromarty, will give it his hearty countenance and support. Were they to contribute to the common stock according to their rentals, and pay particular attention to such tenants as should compete for premiums, though they should not succeed, a spirit of improvement might be soon excited in this country, similar to that which arose in Aberdeenshire, from a farmer-society, formed and patronised by the late Earl of Errol, about 30 years ago. The very attempt would be meritorious, and should it be attended with the probable and desired effect, besides the pleasure it would give to every benevolent heart, to raise a numerous and most irnportant class of men from a state of inactivity and penury to industry and affluence, the money laid out would soon return to themselves or their heirs with tenfold interest; and a few years’ experience of the mode and profit of an improved system of husbandry would, in a short time, render the continuance of premiums quite unnecessary. Having fairly made the experiment himself for 6 months past, the writer earnestly recommends to farmers who plough with 6 or 8 oxen and a driver, to plough witb 2 large oxen in harness, without a driver; besides saving the meat and wages of a driver, they will plough more, and better than 6 or 8 of their present size of oxen; they wil1 not require so much provender; and, if yoked in a cart like horses, each of them will draw a load that 4 of their small garrons would not move.
The writer cannot conclude this miscellaneous branch of his subject, without observing, that it must give the greatest pleasure to every friend to his country to look forward to the many and important advantages that agriculture and manufactures will derive from a Board of Agriculture and internal improvement, sanctioned by Parliament, or the patriotic and well-digested plan proposed by Sir John Sinclair.